Posted by lemonjelly on:
Way back in the 90s, I was away at school, and a friend was interested in getting a jacuzzi for his home. Being one of those mathematician/engineer types, he wanted to thoroughly research all the details of jacuzzis and went off in search of literature. He came back to me and said, "did you know that your town is the hot tub mecca of the nation?"
I had no idea. But the book he had did indeed reference that the hot tubbing phenomenon in America is credited to Santa Barbara. I didn't recall at the time the name of the book, but when the short film Hot Tubs popped up on the SBIFF schedule, based on a Noel Young book, I knew they had to be related to the book my old college friend referenced.
Hot Tubs is a 24 minute film by Gabe Rosenn, documenting the rise of the popular pastime everyone enjoys, but few knew started up on Mountain Drive in the 1970s. According to those who lived it, the hot tub had it roots in the bacchanalian festivities around the annual pressing of grapes. The naked grape crushers would then climb into a redwood vat of water to cleanse themselves of the juices and skins of grapes. This led eventually to warm water and, combined with the pleasure and relaxation of bathing appreciated since Roman times, we have...ta da! Hot tub! Yeeeow, too hot in the hot tub!
These Mountain Drive artists and entrepreneurs built the first hot tubs of Santa Barbara by hand, and eventually branched out into larger scale production. Archival footage of the Original Hot Tub Store in Santa Barbara suddenly looked familiar on the screen. Noel Young's book spread across the US and suddenly America was a hot tub nation.
Life wasn't always as relaxing as a quick dip with friends. The film addresses some of the reality of the fad, like the role of women who had to clean the tubs or wash the laundry, of putting up with drunken gropes underwater, and the onslaught of corporate competition when the fiberglass jacuzzi came onto the market. Today, everyone knows the jacuzzi with jets, but not many have even heard of a redwood hot tub that didn't have jets.
I previewed the film with a friend who has a hot tub at her home. She was moved by the film, with the realization that her own tub has walked a similar path alongside the actual evolution of hot tubs in Santa Barbara. As with her and as with me - and probably you - the hot tub is, naturally, a place for fun and healing.
Hot Tubs plays tonight, 8 PM at the Metro 4, and again on 2 Feb, 10:30 pm also at Metro 4.
It is part of the Short Film Programs, and plays with a series of other short films.